Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mid-Week at My Place - Cookin' for the Kids

When I switched my kids to this new school one of the things I liked was that the school offered a lunch program. It was run by a group of volunteer parents who cooked fresh, diverse hot meals for the kids at the school who wanted them. The meals are funded through donations and every kid is welcome to a plate and seconds - even thirds if there is any left.

The idea is simple, no kid should go hungry at school.

Sadly, at other schools many do.

For me it was wonderful, here were parents providing what I believed should be a mainstay in a cold climate like Canada's - a healthy hot meal. I never understood why places like Florida, with their hot climate, had subsidized hot lunches but here where the weather can sometimes tip below -20c the school board didn't even offer soup to primary and junior school kids.

Needless to say. I signed up to volunteers, and yesterday was my 1st day in the kitchen.

It was busy and tiring - we only have from 9am to lunchtime to get the meal ready for up to 170 kids and we do it from a kitchen half the size of mine at home with minimal equipment. There were 2 other parents cooking yesterday, seasoned volunteer, and I was amazed what we can do with so little. As we cooked and the smell filled the air I could hear kids in the hall going "Mmmmm! Smells good!" and a few popping their heads in to ask what was on the menu. By quarter to twelve we had Mac and Cheese made from scratch, salad with fresh made dressing, fruit and rice ready for anyone who wanted it.

Since I hadn't served yet I hung around to see how that went as well so I knew what to do when it was my turn. The 1st kid thru the door was my daughter. Immediately I saw her begin to beam and I could see the pride in her eyes that I was there as a 'lunch lady'. I'm not too sure what she enjoyed more, the hot meal or being able to tell her friends that I helped make it. Doesn't really matter, I know I enjoyed doing it, and am glad to be part of it.

Worryingly, as I said, it runs on donations and a little bit of funding. While the program is in it's 3rd or 4th year it is evident that it needs more donations and volunteers to be sustainable. Changes were made this year to try to ensure it's success and we are hoping that our efforts between now and the new year are enough to keep it going - otherwise not only will my daughter no longer be able to have a hot lunch, a nice to have for her, but there will be some kids in the school, the kids that inspired the program in the first place, who will go hungry. We know this because before the program started they sat in the caf. every day with no food from home and when school started in September and there was a delay in starting the program there were a few kids arriving lunch-less to the cafeteria every day.

 Next week I fly solo in the kitchen for one day. I'm nervous that I can pull it off on my own but I'm going to do my level best. There's nothing better than a full tummy to help little minds grow and learn,and  I think I'm privileged to be able to help such a program. I hope to be able to do it until our school board decides a full belly is just as important as a textbook when it comes to learning.

If your reading this and thinking you would like to help us out somehow we would appreciate it! Much of the equipment we use is either insufficient or in need of replacing and our donations recieved barely cover the food. If anyone out there has any of the following new or gently used kitchen items to part with we would gratefully accept the help.

Right now we need:

  • a couple new rice cookers
  • restaurant sized buffet chaffing dishes
  • a food processor
  • large pots (that can fit on a residential sized stove)
  • new kitchen knives
  • more cutlery for the kids or better yet 'mess kits' they can take home and clean so we can use less paper plates (we have very limited access to a commercial dishwasher)

Many thanks as always for stopping by and having a read.

BHappy and have fun where ever you are!

Barb

Friday, October 8, 2010

Fridays I'm In Love... with Pirate Puppets

I love these Pirate finger puppets. I really do.

Whimsical and really well made, they're 100% wool, feel great and are hand made responsibly in Nepal.

I love that they are far more durable than conventional finger puppets. Made using a traditional wet felting technique there are no seams to fray or break. Each finger puppet is, with the exception of some decoration, fashioned in one piece with safely dyed boiled wool and because they are handmade each one is always a little unique.

I love that they are Pirates. Boys love imaginative puppet play just as much as girls, but sometimes are stuck putting on animal themed puppet plays or Knights of the Round Table themed plays with Prince Charming puppets just because it's whats available. With 4 puppets in the set there are so many stories to be told either playing on ones own or in a group.

Thick sturdy felt with nice bright colours, they hand-wash well. These guys, their ship and Chest of Gold can play hard.

Keep them nearby to play with, bring them out to enjoy when the little guy needs to keep busy - there perfect for Adventures while waiting for a meal to arrive at a restaurant, great to take to Grandma's or even to inspire amusement while waiting  in a doctors office.

I love that they're only $19.95 a set in a nice recycled paper box, that makes them a great affordable gift in my book.

Hope you like them and if you love them too let me know!

Thanks for stopping by and checking out what I love,
Barb

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Trick or Treat?


We're getting into Halloween 1st gear around here in my house. My daughter is pondering her 4th year as a monkey versus 'something else, but I don't know what' and my son has been adamant that he will be whatever his sister decides to be. After a hiatus last year from manning the door to join my family door to door we've decided to do the door thing again this year.

There are no arguments over what we give out.
The kids can't wait to go shopping.
I will have no leftovers and if I do they keep perfectly well on a shelf in a box.
There are NO CALORIES - NO Sugar
and most of all the kids love them!

We give out school and craft supplies and we have kids literally squealing with delight at our door!

We've been at it since before we had kids. Refining as we go. We estimate what we would normally spend in candy per kid and put it towards bulk packs of things we can break down into individual gifts - toss them in a spooky decorated box and often let them pick one or two things if they are old enough or zero in on something in particular (like the girls and the coloured pencils). Like I said the kids seem to love it - even more than we thought they might - and our treats are useful, different and fun.

Here's my shopping list and tips for this Halloween at the dollar store, discount stores and my other haunts about town.
By carol , from Wikimedia Commons
  • Look for multipacks and items that can be grouped together by tying them together or put in tiny paper surprise loot bags.
  • Multipacks of notepads are a hit with the bigger kids
  • Funky pencil and pens which are always a hit. Get the different styles, not just Halloween but the sports, animal, colourful and patterned, flocked and metallic.
  • Markers, highlighters, coloured pencils bought by the dozen or more and split up.
  • Glitter glue - a huge hit with the girls.
  • Mini erasers come in large quantities and fun styles and are great to dole out multiple items.
  • Finger Traps are a classic
  • Watch out for costume jewelry from the dollar store, while the sets are great for breaking up and the Mardi Gras necklaces seem  great their finish may be dodgy and unsafe.
  • Loot bag packs of cards, bubbles, crackers are all great.
  • Keep an eye out for the large packs of mini playdough in a variety of colours. On sale these can make awesome treat for the wee ones.
  • Stickers, all kinds of sticker sets. Kids love the stickers.
  • Removable tattoos
  • Dollar Store craft kits. Our local store has colour your own spooky themed wooden craft kits (yes, I know its not the best sourced wood but we do what we can) usually 4 or 5 printed wood cutouts and some markers to colour them up.
  • New this year I'm adding Silly Bands. Lots of those little things in a pack and the kids seem to be right into them this year so I expect they will go over well.
Yes, this means more organizing than dumping a pile of candy in a bowl and No, there is no leftover candy for my darling hubby and I to 'force' ourselves to eat before our kids do... but it is worth it to us. A little less processed candy shared around the neighborhood and a bit more fun to be had by all.

What do you do for Halloween? do you give out candy or have something different you do you would like to share? I'd love top hear from you.

Oh. And if you want to steal our idea of crafts and toys, please do and let me know what it was like at yours when you did!




Thanks for stopping by
Have fun and BHappy,
Barb

Thursday, September 30, 2010

My Free Range Kid

This year my kids started a new school. For my daughter this meant leaving her old school and friends and full day classes now that she is 1st grade. Thankfully her excitement at starting grade 1 tempered her sadness for leaving her old school. As for my son, he started half day kindergarten, which meant that he finally got to start school after 2 years of trying to join my daughters kindergarten class.

Like most schools around here the kindergarten kids go in to class at a different door than the bigger kids - all the way at the other side of the school - and I had him scheduled for morning classes so they both had to line up at the same time, and of course, if your late there's the need for a slip from the office. It's a big school too, a full block - the distance between those doors is probably the distance between my house and our corner store and we have to round 2 corners to get from door to door.

My dilemma, being in 2 places at once. My solution? Listening to my daughter.

On the second day of school as the bell rang and we stood in the kindergarten area waiting for my sons teacher to open the door she said "I'll go by myself! I know where to go!"

So with a kiss, hug and promise to pick her up after school she ran off gleefully to her door.

It took 5 seconds for her to be out of my sight and another 5 minutes for me to walk over to that side to see if she was still there. She wasn't.

6 and a half hours later I stood by those doors waiting for her to finish class. Of course she had made it to her door and lineup and came out of the school with her class as the bell rang. Safe and sound and as happy as a clam. When asked what her favorite parts of the day were it turned out that taking herself to the lineup ranked top along with music class and having 2 recesses. So, now each time we wait at the kindergarten doors she takes herself to her line when the bell rings.

To me this routine is nothing more than finding a way to make things work while being able to reinforce my child's sense of independence and my trust in her. I didn't think much of it until another kindergarten mother noticed her run off and was surprised at my comfort level having my 6 year old leave my sight. She said she wasn't sure she would have the nerve to do it. I only then realised we were 'Free Ranging' again as well as being practical.

As has happened before, I got that pang inside that said 'What do other mothers think? Do they think I'm crazy? Reckless?' The that wise voice inside, the one we know we should listen too when we hear it said "Who cares? You know whats best for your kids and know what level of risk is acceptable to you and that's all that matters."

The voice is right, my kid is safe, happy and proud of her abilities. She knows I trust her and I hope if we keep on trusting her she will always trust us.

Saturday, August 21, 2010



Hi everyone,

Just wanted to let you know of an event I'm planning with the store. September 3rd thru 5th I'm having a pop up shop - taking over a storefront on the Danforth for a few days to bring out all the fun and let you touch and try before you buy (or just come and check us out - but that rhymed!)

Below is the blurb we shared with local bloggers and event calendars.
Hope I see you there for a bit of lemonade!

Little Footprints Eco-Friendly Back to School Pop-Up Shop Sale


Come join Toronto e-tailer Little Footprints September 3 -5th on the Danforth to browse and shop their unique selection of Eco-Friendly toys and games for kids of all ages. There will be lemonade to enjoy, toys to try out including a Piggy Paint nail bar where you can try out the 'Natural as Mud' nailpolish. That's not all! There will be special sale prices on our educational products - including 10% off all our Stockmar and Clementine Art products. Little Footprints is Canada's leading on-line Eco-Friendly toy store dedicated to sustainably, responsibly and ethically sourced products for kids of all ages and we hope to see you there!


Event details:

1390 Danforth Avenue (east of Greenwood station)

Hours:

Friday 1pm – 8pm

Saturday 10am-6pm

Sunday 12pm-3pm




More information available at www.littlefootprintstoys.com

Thursday, August 19, 2010

One in the Hand Equals Three On The Tree


We went on a pear pick the other day. Last year I signed us up as volunteers for Not Far From The Tree a local charitable organization that gleans local trees for their fruit and shares the bounty. Without clobbering them over the head with it, they are only 3 and 6 after all!, I have been looking for ways to teach my kids to understand where their food comes from as well as to be socially aware and giving. I must admit my family did bring me up to be very self sufficient but not very philanthropic - I hope to do a bit better with my kids.

Anyway....

Back to the trees. After patiently waiting a whole year to be called to pick and missing a few chances we finally made the picker cut and the three of us went a' pickin'. The kids loved it! My daughter was a dab hand at the picking tool as she gleefully picked any pear she could reach. My son, a wee bit smaller, was quite happy to collect the fallen fruit into a separate bag - an occasionally eat a few . Their chatter kept everyone laughing and it was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.

Fun as it was it was also wonderfully productive. NFFTT is a food share program. The owner of the tree lists their tree with the organization and when the fruit is ready to pick a team of 'gleaners' is dispatched to pick the tree as clean as they can, as well as tidy up any fallen fruit mess and debris from the pick. The bounty is divided into thirds; 1/3 for the tree owner, 1/3 divided among the pickers and 1/3 goes to food banks and organizations that feed those in need. Pretty neat, huh? Over 6,000 pounds have been picked so far in Toronto alone.

For our pick we weighed in at in excess of 250 pounds of pears and since no one took their full share over 100 pounds of fresh ready to ripen pears were taken to a local food bank that evening. All the while a gentle lesson in community, sharing and ecology was passed onto my kids that afternoon.

Pretty fruitful day if you ask me ;)
Sign up your tree if you have one - we'll happily come pick it for ya!

Thanks for stopping by for a read, BHappy and have fun.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Why I Love... Piggy Paints



We received our 1st shipment of Piggy Paints back in March, I even blogged about them coming into the shop.

So why do I love them so much? For starters they have no harsh chemicals, no funky smell and a range of beautiful and fun colours. Up until I found them I didn't let my daughter use nail polish. Well that's *almost* true. I did buy her a bottle of natural polish when she was about 3 at the health food store once, spent over $12 on it, but the colour went on so transparently that she was hugely disappointed with the results, it was an epic fail. Then Piggy Paints came along and after doing my research and trying them myself I decided they were both safe enough and vibrant enough for us both to be happy about it. I was sooo right! Of course by this time she was 6 and I had my 3 year old son watching us so naturally he wanted in on the fun. Luckily Piggy Paints come in some boyish colours like green, yellow and blue and since I'm a mom who tries to not pigeon hole my kids into gender specific play I let him in on the act. Green 'Dragon Nails' I called them and he proudly sports them on his toes whenever he gets a chance. And yes, some parents give us the oddest looks but we generally try to laugh about it.

A client just told me that after she picked up 3 different colours and a remover for her daughter they has spent the following week doing each others nails every day, not because the colours fade or chip that quickly, but because they are having so much fun changing them up and bonding over the girlie experience.

When she bought them I shared with her that they are now my polish of choice for my own nails. At first she was surprised but I went on to explain that I wasn't very happy about wearing such harsh chemicals myself and found them to wear really well if I followed the directions. So while she put it on initially because her daughter wanted her to she found that she really likes them as a big girl polish too!

I also think they are fantastic for new moms. I stopped wearing polish all together when I had my first-born. She would suckle my finger for comfort and I was not at all comfortable with the idea of her sucking traditional polish. Sometimes I would put polish on to go out in the evening, away from my kid because of the strong smell, and promptly remove it the next morning followed by a nice long soak to remove any chemical residue. But that's a lot of extra work for a new mom with a newborn so I quickly abandoned the polish and the ritual.

Course my kids are both beyond the finger sucking age now but for new mothers I think Piggy Paints can make a great gift, a little something to pamper themselves with and they don't have to worry about exposing their wee ones too the chemicals or smells of traditional polishes and removers - even Piggy Paints remover is virtually odorless and made from natural corn.

So I love them because they are vibrant, natural and have a creative colour selection that appeals to kids but I also love them because I think they are great for mommies too!

I love them so much that the shop has begun to offer Piggy Paint Polish Parties bothy privately and at store events. If you want to try them out yourself and your in the Toronto area we will be having a Piggy Paint Nail Bar at our next pop-up shop September 3rd - 5th. For more details for location and times check out our News page at the shop and call the shop for details on how to host your own girlie polish party.

Thanks for reading, BHappy and have fun today!
Wow how time flies! It has been a long time since I posted here and I am sorry for that. My only excuse is time and inspiration -they seem to escape me now-a-days, at least for this blog. But I'm back and I am newly inspired.

My challenge seems to have been that I hit a white elephant, well not literally, but figuratively. I kept thinking my posts had to be inspired and engaging but didn't know where my voice for this blog. I'm not 100% comfortable sharing information about my kids and family or my life as a mother. I like to share what we do and how we have fun but honestly I was never one to keep a journal so I often feel odd writing it all down here. Then it struck me, one of my greatest inspirations is the store, or more specifically the products in it and so very often I find myself telling people I meet, customers and friends about what makes the products in the shop so especially great (IMHO) - so there you have it, I plan to write about "Why I Love..." toys and games that I have chosen to carry at Little Footprints and I hope that also inspires me to share a bit more about the things I do with my family that I think you might enjoy or be interested in too.

My next post will be my first "Why I Love..." post. I hope you like it!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A day in the bush is worth two stuck inside




It's Sugarbush season again, time to get outside with the first hint of warmth. We have been taking the kids to enjoy a sugarbush trail for a few years now and this year was no different. Beautiful weather inspired a relaxed nature walk with lots of time to take in all the information & exhibits at Bruce's Mill Conservation Area. The taste the sap spot is always a hit with the kids and this year, to our surprise, our daughter was feeling taste adventurous and wanted to try cedar tea proclaiming it tasted pretty good, even taking the time to learn that it was full of vitamins before she danced away down the trail again.

It's stuff like sugarbushing that make me really happy to be living in a place with a real change of seasons, where leaves change colour in the fall and warm weather brings flowing sap - a most awesome renewable, sustainable, natural sweet treat! Even better is the feeling I get when I get to share these experiences with my kids.

This year the sap flowed early and freely. Each bucket we peeked into was dripping just like this one....

video
Yumm!

And just like I posted last year we purchased a big 4 litre jug of Maple Syrup to take advantage of the savings in bulk. We paid $65 for 4 litres, which is easily a $6-8 savings per litre, but watching our little 3 year old try to carry it to the car was priceless and well worth the line up in the Sugar Shack to get it!

If your thinking 'That's super but what am I going to do with so much syrup?!' Check out my post from last year about how to easily store the golden nectar and get out there for a day of fun and sweet savings yourself.

As always, BHappy and thanks for stopping by!


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Bunnies already?

Last thing I knew I was here before Christmas and now look, there are bulbs poking thru the ground. We just got back from a neighborhood Easter Fest where the bunny himself made an appearance and even helped with a pinata! Thank you for sharing to the wonderful families who get together to make their street so much fun!

Yes, if you live in the East End that was my daughter screaming above a street full of families 'Follow me guys! I know where the Easter Bunny is!' I have no idea when or how she got that loud.

The shops been busy. If you haven't been in a while we have a new Spring online 'window' and some wonderful new products to share, many selected to enjoy along with the impending warm weather and all, as always, kind to the planet. It was warm a few days ago wasn't it? Or was that a dream?

Piggy Paints have arrived, natural nail polishes for kids in great colours like Girls Rule pink and Mac-n-Cheese orange. Forever Fancy turns out to be my daughters favorite. As for my son - he has been seen sporting some metallic green Ice Cream Dream - the little dude wanted his nails done like his big sis and thought it was cool that his fingers would match his toy cars, what can I say? We all agreed that Ice Cream Dream also made for cool Dragon nails.


For bigger kids and adults we have new flying discs made from recycled plastics made by Green Toys of California. These Ecosaucers weigh in at about 130 grams and they are rumored to make for great tricks and b-golf discs.

Come on nice weather!

With it being Easter we are making silk dyed Easter eggs at home. A great idea we found on Twitter. We picked up some ties and scarves at second hand shops this week.
We've tried a few, the bunny tie that we were all excited about might just be too pale to work real well but we will keep you posted. Just gotta get some more eggs!





Thanks for stopping by and till next time BHappy folks :)